Archive for the ‘Sarah’ Category

I Wanted to Change the World, But Now I Just Change Diapers

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

i wanted to change the world but now i just change diapersAt 20 years young I had big plans. I was going to impact the world in an important way. I was deeply immersed in the academic world, fascinated by journal articles containing current research in my field. I was on the brink of finishing up my undergraduate degree and looking into graduate programs. I had dreams of contributing to my profession in a dynamic way. I was going to change the world! (Or at least a teeny tiny speck of it).

Fast forward to 17 years later (Holy cannoli, how is that even possible!?!) and most days it feels like the only thing I change is diapers. And let’s be honest, there is no real sense of accomplishment in that daily task. Sigh. I could easily be swallowed up by this loss.

Hear me out. I’m not (at ALL) referring to the antiquated discussion of “working parent” versus “stay at home parent”. That’s a complex, multi-faceted, highly personal, and individualized situation. And it’s rarely as black and white as society makes it out to be.

What I’ve (slowly) realized is there is a multitude of ways to feel esteemed and empowered. At a young and naïve but super passionate and enthusiastic 20-year-old, I held a narrow view of what “changing the world” meant. I primarily attached that definition to external recognition; approval and/or appreciation from others (including monetary reward). I now realize that is a bit of a fallacy.

Sure it feels good to be acknowledged. So please continue to acknowledge and express appreciation to those around you that enhance your life!  What I am referring to is that I no longer “rely” on those things to feel valued/important/special/worthy. That’s where the shift has occurred. I found that when I look inward to discover a sense of satisfaction, it’s felt on a more profound level. Living with love and vibrancy is really all it takes to exude an energy force that is absorbed into the world, and returned back. It really is THAT simple!

I also better understand the cumulative effect of the little things we do every day that impact our world in a positive way. Chaos theory tells us that we live in a world so dynamic and complex, that “small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.” THIS is what I am talking about. I CAN and DO change the world. Every day. We all do. Because we exist in this shared space together. Our actions and behaviors effect the world around us. It’s actually kind of an awesome sense of responsibility to hold; knowing that every step of the way we have the power to influence the world around us. Wow!

So embrace the magic of being you and all you have to offer in this world! You do amazing things every day, including changing diapers.

 

 

Making Peace with Being Unproductive

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

 “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” –Phyllis Dyer

 I used to put tremendous pressure on myself to get everything “just right.” And that often resulted in feeling frustrated. Because while I would approach each day with the very best of intentions to be super productive, the demands of caring for little ones quickly took over and trumped almost everything on my to-do list. Even something as simple as making a phone to schedule a dentist appointment would sometimes take days to cross off the list. It really shouldn’t be that difficult to find 10 minutes of quiet to make a simple phone call. Yet it is. Surprisingly so. Because when you finally get that window of opportunity your phone has 3% battery and you can’t find the charger, and you make the call anyway hoping it will be quick, but of course you are put on hold and battery gives out before you can complete the call. And now “buy new charger” is added to your to-do list.

A while back I might have felt frustrated about the inability to complete such a simple task in a timely manner; but I now know that it all eventually gets done. And whatever doesn’t get done (you know, like that stack of Christmas cards you bought that just sat on your desk until February 3 when you finally decided to pack them away and try again next year) probably doesn’t really matter much in the grand scheme of life. And that’s the other beautiful refinement that comes along with being at peace with unproductivity; you generally strengthen your ability to prioritize. When you know it is likely you will only get one or two things done, you tend to pick the things that count the most. Usually. But then occasionally the darndest thing happens and you find yourself concentrating on a silly task like reorganizing the spice drawer, even though it is the most impractical thing to be doing. The kids are hungry, the dog needs to go on a walk, you have to be out the door in 22 minutes and yet there you are alphabetizing your spice drawer. Why do we do this? And furthermore why does it bring us so much satisfaction? Honestly I don’t really have an answer except that it just feels good from time to time to channel energy into a fresh and unexpected way.

So give yourself permission to go with the ebb and flow of the day. Relax and know what needs to get done, will get done. Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake. It might even be the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. And when you get the weird crazy impractical urge to reorganize your spice drawer, just embrace it. Surely it serves some purpose, which may well just be to help us make sense of our day that seem so out of our control. Perhaps it’s like building a snowman in the snowstorm, instead of shoveling.

Long-distance Running While Nursing

Friday, July 1st, 2016

long-distance running while nursingThere are many who think long distance running and breastfeeding are incompatible. However I wanted to share my experience with the two because it actually CAN be done. This isn’t to say everyone CAN or SHOULD, but there’s so little encouraging and/or positive messages around ultrarunning and breastfeeding that I feel compelled to share my story. I am a mother of four boys (ages 9 to 2) all of whom extended breastfed without any supplementation. I have participated in ultrarunning for the past five years and running for the past 8. I recently weaned my 2 year old, but prior to weaning, I breastfeed him without any supplementation while maintaining very high weekly mileage from early on postpartum.

The term Ultrarunning basically refers to any distance beyond a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles (or 42.2 kilometers) in length. Therefore an Ultramarathon can range from 31miles/50kilometers events all the way up to 100miler/160 kilometers and beyond. Now I realize it is a small percentage of runners that participate in ultramarathons. And generally the male field is larger than the female field. Throw breastfeeding into the mix and we’re talking about a really, really tiny population BUT we exist! And there’s very little information available to women who fall into this category which is why I wanted to share a few tips on what made it work for me.

First and foremost ensure the following:

  1. You have a solid baseline level of fitness and distance running pre pregnancy/birth (and have maintained an active/fit pregnancy)
  2. Your milk supply is well established
  3. Breastfeeding is well established.
  4. You have clearance from your health care provider to exercise/run.
  5. You are in overall good health and injury free

Over the years of breastfeeding an ultrarunning I have experienced various distances and types of runs/events; including road, trail, set distances, timed events, point to point, short loops, long loops, out and backs, and whatever else imaginable is out there. The longest distance I have run (consecutively) while breastfeeding is 105miles. Each event and age of your baby has dictated how I managed breastfeeding both while training and on course. Finding a groove that works for YOUR body and baby might take a little experimenting, but here are some general tips to maintain successful breastfeeding as an ultrarunner:

long-distance running while nursingInvest in HIGH QUALITY sports bras!

You want one that is going to be supportive but not restrictive. You don’t want breasts to be compressed for long periods of time because that can easily lead to clogged ducts and mastitis. If you are going to be nursing or pumping on course/mid run having a bra that front zips can be handy as it provides quick access/efficiency. My experience is that “nursing sports bras” are generally not the best option. Although they designed for active breastfeeding moms, they didn’t provide the comfort or support needed for long durations (keep in mind an ultramarathon is hours and hours and hours of activity). Lululemon and Victoria Secret are my top favorite brands for sports bras. Both are pricey but last a long time. My Lululemons have a TON of mileage on them and are still going strong.

EAT! CALORIES, CALORIES, CALORIES!!! Loads of FAT!

I easily ate 3,000+ calories a day while training and breastfeeding. However I focused on eating super clean and nourishing foods, especially high fat foods. No, I don’t mean donuts and cookies, although those are a fun treat from time to time. I mean healthy fats! Foods high in essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6. I consume generous amounts of seeds, nuts, oils, coconut, and avocado. I am a vegetarian so I don’t eat fish, but you could throw that into the mix as well. Focus on nourishing yourself well and replenishing lost calories. You don’t want to be operating on a calorie deficit. Fuel yourself properly so you have the energy to sustain your high activity level while producing milk.

HYDRATE!

As runners we already know the importance of proper hydration. It can make or break a run for us. But if you are nursing a baby and running long distances hydration becomes even more essential. It can be hard to drink a lot during a long run, thus I found that drinking a ton of water the days leading up to a long training run/race were the best way for me to stay hydrated. Having the right gear to haul liquids during a run is important. Each runner has their own system that is generally refined over time. I found a pack with a bladder filled with water and then a bottle(s) (either handheld or tucked into a pocket on my pack) filled with electrolytes to be the most effective/efficient option for me. Post run I drink a ton of water and coconut water to replenish.

REST!

In order to produce adequate milk to nourish your little one, you need optimal rest/sleep. Now I fully realize how challenging it is to get adequate rest. Every day demands and responsibilities seem to add up fast and we are continuously buried under a mounting “to-do” list. But if at all possible find a way to make rest and sleep a priority. I am of the mindset that sleep trumps a workout or a training run. If I am feeling tired (or let’s face it, exhausted is a better description) I will choose rest/sleep over a run/workout 100% of the time. A workout or run performed by an overworked, depleted body holds very little benefit and actually can be detrimental. Respect and honor your body. If it’s tired, give it the break it needs.

Managing Breastfeeding

This is a highly individualized process so it’s a bit difficult to give specific tips as each scenario differs greatly. However being resourceful and creative in HOW you manage breastfeeding both in training and during races is a key factor. Having a positive and flexible system of support in this process is essential. For me this person was my husband. I can’t even begin to explain how incredibly supportive he was (and is) of my running. He has brought baby to me in the most random of places and times of day/night so I could breastfeed in the middle of a run or deliver pumped milk to him. Being comfortable nursing and pumping in public are pretty much a standard requirement if you are going to participate in ultras. I have pumped and nursed at aid stations and on course many, many times. This can be tricky when you are up against time cut offs. Pumping and/or nursing definitely eats up time on course so factoring in adequate time to manage breastfeeding is very important when developing race strategy/pacing. Knowing how long your body can comfortably go without needing to express is helpful. And knowing how to hand express is ESSENTIAL! Being able to relieve yourself at any given time during a long run provides peace of mind in case your time predications/pacing is off (which we know happens often in ultrarunning).

Lastly keep in mind that unless you are a professional athlete, for most of us ultrarunning is a recreational hobby Therefore you want it to remain an enjoyable part of your life. If the pressure to train and race while breastfeeding overwhelms you at any time, give yourself permission to take a breather. It can be difficult to do when “ultrarunner” is part of our identity and our social circle, but know life exists in seasons. Off seasons can help shape us in new ways and we can return to our beloved sport stronger than ever when we honor body first and foremost.

Too Tired to Worry about Baby #4

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

too tired 3I joke that baby #4 is my tagalong. I call him the “sleep anywhere baby” because I’m not sure he’s ever had a proper nap. He sleeps on my back in the ergo. In the bike trailer. In the stroller. In a shopping cart. On the bathroom floor. Or snuggled up against a wall. Obviously napping when the baby naps doesn’t apply here. Although I’m so tired that most days I probably could also curl up against a wall and doze off for a bit, too.

I have a dear friend I met while pregnant with my fourth baby. She was pregnant with her first at the time. We had the same “estimated due date” which formed an almost instant connection between us. Our little ones were born a week apart and so there has been a lot of shared experiences on our motherhood journey; sometimes with elation (He’s walking!) and sometimes with tears (He’s awake all night long!). We have been meeting monthly for breakfast since about 35 weeks pregnant and now our little ones are almost two years old! I cherish our breakfast dates and look forward to them each month.

On our recent breakfast date she shared with me that she had made an outline stating her educational goals for her son. As I listened to her share, I was fascinated. But also trying to scan my brain in effort to come up with what educational goals I had for my own toddler. I wanted to feel worthy of contributing to our conversation. She sounded so wise, caring, and passionate about her son’s educational journey. I admired her. And wondered if I used to be like her when my oldest was my only? Did I ponder with great deliberation my hopes and dreams for him? too tired 1Surely I did. It just all feels like a blur and I am too tired to even remember what that was like; to have the space in my brain to ponder such thoughts. The reality is most days the goal is just to get through the day…and I don’t even necessarily to do that with intention. And if I did at one point have an outline of educational goals for my oldest son, they have now been replaced with the primary goal of not being late to school. With the secondary goal being to achieve the primary goal with as little yelling as possible. That’s the painful truth of our days.

My conversation with my friend stuck with me and I really started thinking about how differently I mothered my first.

Baby #1: Starting at just a few weeks old I would sit with him in the rocking chair and read aloud to him because that’s what all the research on literature and brain development told me to do.
Baby #4: Have I ever read him a book? Wait there was that one time I gave him a book to hold because he was fussing in his stroller. Mmmm, actually that was just a pamphlet of the metro schedule I was trying to figure out as we were dashing through the station trying not to miss the train. But I’m pretty sure it had some words and number on it. That counts as developing early literacy skills, right?

Baby #1: While bathing him I would sing little songs and play little games with him. Post-bath he would get a relaxing baby massage with organic essential oils because that’s what all the research on bonding, attachment, and language development told me to do.
Baby #4: I don’t even know the last time he had a bath. The only song he’s probably ever heard me sing is Happy Birthday the few times a year we sing it. And I’ve rubbed coconut oil on his butt a few times due to the diaper rash he got because I forgot to change his diaper. That’s kind of like a baby massage, right?

Baby #1: Introduction to foods was a deliberate and well thought-out process full of homemade organic foods presented in a way to encourage self-feeding and promote a balanced palate, because that’s what all the research on health and nutrition told me to do.
Baby #4: His first food was sprinkles that my middle son fed him when he was five months old. But I think they were the ones dyed with beetroot and carrots which is kind of like eating a vegetable, right?

You get my drift here. The capacity I had to pour attention AND intention into mothering has changed. Drastically. And I almost forgot you can do more as a mother than just survive through the day to day hustle of getting everyone where they need to be with whatever it is they need. And honestly I don’t even juggle that simple task very well

too tired 475 percent of the time.

Although talking with my friend about her goals for her son was refreshing and inspiring. Her enthusiasm was delightful and even contagious. It made me remember a part of myself I had long forgotten. And she’s still there; that attentive, loving, caring mother filled with a deep desire to nurture and guide her children. That mom exists
somewhere within me. It’s just that most days she is heavily buried under a mounting to-do list and a never ending pile of laundry.

So while I don’t have the ability to provide my toddler with the same individualized focus I did with baby #1, I remind myself that he’s still exposed to and enjoying an enriching, stimulating babyhood. It just looks slightly different.

Baby #1: Attends baby story time at the library with costumes, music, and dancing.
Baby #4: Attends brother’s school play with costumes, music and dancing.

Baby #1: Plays alongside peers during visits to children’s museum, playgrounds, and splash parks.
Baby #4: Plays alongside older brothers (and their friends) in the woods behind our house.

Baby #1: Receives a lot of attention and affection from me.
Baby #4: Receives a lot of collective attention and affection from his older brothers and myself.

It helps me to see that baby #4 is blessed with a busy family schedule and surrounded by people who love and care for him. In a way it’s simply a parallel journey between baby #1 and baby #4.

BOTH #1 and #4: Have a mom who expresses a wide range of emotions from silly/happy to frustrated/overwhelmed. And at the heart of each day knows she is doing the best she can at any given moment by approaching motherhood which humility and hopefully a little grace along the way.

May you find a glimmer of joy and assurance wherever you are in your own journey as a parent.

Sarah is a crunchy mama to four boys. Her family feels blessed to currently live abroad in the Netherlands and enjoy exploring all it has to offer.  She blogs about health, nutrition, and exercise at fitafter.com

What Makes a Velcro Baby?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

velcro babyAhhhh. The Velcro baby. You know the one. The baby that ALWAYS seems to be attached to you. They want to be constantly nursed. Or held. Or sit in your lap. Or hold your hand. Or follow you all around the house, and if you walk away for a nanosecond, it’s a crisis. That placenta cord may have been cut long ago, but this tiny human doesn’t seem to know it. You may start to think what is going on? Why is my little one so needy? So clingy? So difficult? What am I doing wrong?!? This attachment parenting stuff is supposed to be fostering independence…but*gulp* am I actually creating an “unhealthy” attachment?

I’m going be blunt here. Parenting a Velcro baby is exhausting. It can drain you both physically and emotionally. Their need for you feels deep and overwhelming. And your body can feel worn out from constantly supporting the weight of another person. Even when you are using kicka@@ ergonomically correct carrier, your body is impacted by carrying a tiny human around all day. Plus a Velcro baby can be frustrating. It can make a simple task take 18 times as long. Basically it feels consuming. It’s like the line between your own body and theirs is so blurred you start to forget what it even feels like to be yourself.

So what causes a Velcro baby? One huge and often overlooked/underestimated factor is merely human development. When a baby is going through a big developmental leap, this seems to increase their need for comfort. Change within can feel confusing, disorganizing, and out of control. So in order to cope, they cling to what is familiar and comfortable…and in many cases that is a parent/caregiver. Considering that development is vast and rapid during the first years of life, it’s as though they are continuously on the brink of a new developmental skill. Rolling. Sitting. Crawling. Walking. And that’s only the physical changes. They are learning and growing socially, cognitively, and emotionally too. Their little bodies and brains are working crazy hard to make all this happen!

Ahhh. Whew! So it’s not something you are doing “wrong” as a parent. It’s simply a natural part of human development. Little ones grow and they need us to help them navigate through that change. How that dynamic looks for each individual parent child is truly unique. But it can be helpful to know basic developmental milestones, sometimes referred to as “wonder weeks.” Knowledge is empowering. We feel better prepared to handle these changes and perhaps more relaxed about them. Additionally we are more accepting of the challenges and demands that accompany them. Furthermore knowing ourselves is helpful. How do we replenish and renew ourselves so we can optimally nurture our little ones?

Good self-care is essential when parenting a Velcro baby. And yes, I know the hardship there. We can barely meet basic needs like going to the bathroom or eating a nourishing meal when baby is clinging to us. But call in your reinforcements. Whatever they may be. The demands of a Velcro baby are legit and can quickly burn us out if we don’t also carve out the space to meet our own needs in the process.